Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where I've Been....Where Everybody Else Has, Sick

Just a quick post to let everyone know that we've been sick around here since before Christmas. We've had colds, no flu thank god! Alan got a cold 2 weeks before Christmas I took care of him and then he was back in action at New Years. The day after New Years, I got whatever he had and am finally crawling out of my hole. Needless to say there has been next to no cooking going on around here for the duration.
    Now that I'm up and around, I'm ready to fire up the stove so I'll be back shortly with some healthy new Years dishes, meanwhile the last time I was in the kitchen a couple of days before Christmas, I made a Buche de Noel. Gluten free (it's made of chestnut flour) with chestnut meringues, sugared cranberries and marron glace. If one is going to stop cooking for about a month at least I went out on a high note.
Coming up next, quick and healthy to get the new year started right. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, December 17, 2017

An Italian Chestnut Christmas Cake

   I've been doing a lot of holiday baking, both for the folks at CocoaPlanet and also just for home. I've been doing all sorts of seasonal  things from a Buche de Noel, to an Apple Beehive. A lot of the things I've been doing are French, but every now and then I like to dip into some recipes from the part of Italy (the North)  that my family hails from and try something traditional. Thus, the Chestnut Cake with Chocolate Ganache  decorated with Marron Glace aka, glazed Chestnuts. This cake is gluten free because it's made with chestnut flour. This cake can also be made without using dairy. It does however contain eggs. One thing I do love about this cake is that it is stupid easy to make. It is literally toss everything in a stand mixer and churn. No separating of eggs, no folding, no sifting, it doesn't get more low tech than that.
   I hadn't had this cake in ages and I had to go hunting around for a recipe that looked familiar, and I found it at Azelia's Kitchen. Azelia is originally from Portugal, now lives in England, and she has a recipe for a Chestnut Cake that takes me back to Italian family dinners from my childhood. So grab yourself some Chestnut flour (living out in the country I had to get mine mail-order) and a jar of chestnuts and try this delicious cake over the holiday season. I promise you won't regret it.

Chocolate Chestnut Cake


Here's What You Need:

The Cake:

1 cup minus 1 Tbs chestnut flour
3/4 cup minus 1 Tbs caster sugar (you can also use brown sugar if you prefer)
7 Tbs salted butter, or 1/2 cup of non dairy margarine at room temp.
3 eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbs any sort of milk, dairy or non dairy

The Ganache:

8 oz of CocoaPlanet Vanilla Espresso chocolate broken into pieces
1/2 cup of cream
1 Tbs unsalted butter at room temperature

The Glazed Chestnuts:

8 oz of shelled cooked unsweetened chestnuts. I got a jar at my local Whole Foods.
2 cups of caster sugar
4 cups of water

Here's What To Do:

The Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottom of a 9 x 2 inch cake pan with parchment paper.
Whisk all the dry ingredients together and put them into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add in the butter, eggs, and milk.
Beat on medium low with the whisk attachment until every thing is well blended.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin.
Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Tap it against the side of the counter to get rid of air bubbles in the  batter and pop it into the oven.
Bake for about 18- 20 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the center of the cake. When it comes out clean, it's done.
Set it aside to cool. While the cake is cooling in the pan make your ganache.

The Ganache:

Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a medium bowl.
Heat the cream until it is just starting to bubble at the edges.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl, making sure the chooclate pieces are all covered. Let it sit for about 5 minutes.
Whisk the now melted chocolate and the cream together and add in the unsalted butter.
Let the thick ganache mixture cool slightly before you use it.

Unmold The Cake:

Run a thin knife around the edges of the cooled cake in the pan loosening it.
Take a serving platter and place it on top of the cake.
Turn everything upside down so the plate is on the bottom. Remove the cake pan. RThe cake is sitting on the platter with a top covered with parchment paper.
Peel back the parchment paper and toss it.

Icing the Cake:

Pour the slightly cooled ganache over the top of the cake and using a frosting blade smooth everything out. The cake will be coated in shiny chocolate ganache. Let it dry at room temperature while you cany the chestnuts.

Marron Glace:

In a pot over medium high heat melt the sugar and water together.
Simmer the sugar syrup until it thickens slightly. You stiill want it to be easily pourable.
When the syrup is ready, put your cooked chestnuts  into a wide stainless steel skillet and pour the hot sugar syrup over them.
Turn the heat to low and simmer the chestnuts in the syrup  for about 30 minutes.
Turn the heat off at that point and let the chestnuts sit in the syrup for another 10 minutes.
After that, take them out of the syrup and set them on a plate to cool.
Decorate the cooled ganache covered cake with the cooled candied chestnuts.

   This was a birthday cake for one of the owners of CocoaPlanet. The cake is very moist and tender due to the high fat content of the chestnut flour, and absolutely a treat for any birthday. My husband has requested this as his birthday cake this year, so I'll be baking another one in a couple of weeks. Coming up next a few more Holiday treats. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Sheet Pan With A Plan: OXO Makes Your Holiday Meals Magic.

   I love OXO products, and when looking for great design, ergonomic ease, and long lasting quality, that's the brand I reach for. So, when OXO offered me a chance to try out some of their roasting equipment for my holiday cooking, I jumped at the opportunity. This time of the year is when the cooking ramps up around here, and that is something coming from someone who seems to always be cooking, or baking.  December is usually the most hectic month as it includes, Christmas, Channuka, our wedding anniversary, my husbands birthday, and New Years Eve. We always have family and extra guests visiting this time of year, so by the time December is over, I'm usually ready to give the company feasting a rest til Valentines day.
   The good folks at OXO sent me a number of items to try, my task was to use them all to turn out something special. I received a Good Grips Flavor Injector for brines and marinades.

This is a nifty little tool, that comes with two injector heads, one for thinner brines and marinades and one for thicker marinades. Until I used this I never knew injecting marinades could be so easy. I have permanently said goodbye to soaking in brine, now it's all about the injector.

I also got a Non Stick Pro Half Sheet Jelly Roll Pan which is sturdy, scratch, stain, and abrasion resistant, with nicely rolled square edges and a micro-textured pattern.

This beauty is extremely easy to clean up (always a plus), and it's commercial grade! I really work my cooking materials hard and most of what I use is commercial grade, (especially since I've been menu consulting for CocoaPlanet) the tougher the better, and it's great to find a product for the home that measures up to what I'd find in a restaurant supply  store.

I also received a Chefs Precision Digital Instant Read Thermometer. (see above) I already had bought one of these, but I had the old model, this new thermometer has a swivel head which does not involve one jamming their head in the oven like a fugitive from Hansel and Gretel to find out how ones meat is doing, Plus the case it comes in has the proper temps listed for whatever you might be cooking. Sweet.

The items on the left are Silicone Roasting Racks. (again, above) They elevate whatever happens to be cooking, allows the air to circulate around the food  as it cooks, and did I mention they are a breeze to clean up? Well they are! Dishwasher safe baby!
   So with all this great equipment what to cook? I decided to test drive my new pan with an old favorite that I hadn't bothered cooking for a zillion years. Game Hens. I always found them troublesome to cook properly but with all this great stuff, they were a breeze.

Pomegranate Marinated  Game Hens


Here's What You Need:  

2 Game Hens
3 Tbs pomegranate molasses
1 Tbs olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup of pomegranate arils

Here's What To Do:

Mix together the pomegranate molasses, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Draw the marinade into the flavor injector using the wider head.

Make sure the birds are thoroughly defrosted and dry. Place them in a Pyrex dish and inject them under the skin, into the meat at strategic points.

Cover the dish with foil and let the birds rest in the fridge overnight.
When ready to cook, mix another batch of the marinade and set it aside.
Take the birds out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the silicone roasting racks into the sheet pan.

Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the  hens, and add some pomegranate arils inside each cavity.

Place them on the silicone roasting racks and tie the tiny drumsticks together with butchers twine.

Place them into the middle of the oven and roast them at 375 for about 1 hour.

During the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, brush each game hen with the extra marinade you prepared.

Check the temp with the nifty digital thermometer.

I placed the birds on a bed of Basmati rice, cooked with cardamom, cloves, toasted cashews, and cinnamon.

I scattered pomegranate arils and torn mint leaves over the birds...

...and served them up.

They were flavorful thanks to the marinade injection, juicy and delicious!!!! This was the perfect meal for a busy weekday dinner even though it looks like something designed for company.

   I want to thank OXO for giving me the opportunity to use these great tools and show you what they can do. I'm now hooked on that injector and can't wait to see what it'll do to a brisket!  Coming up next, great holiday dishes, fancy or plain. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Simple, and Delicious, The Apple Beehive From Tartine's New Cookbook.

   During the holiday season most of us wind up doing a LOT of cooking. There are always guests with particular dietary needs, whether it's gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, or low-carb. This dessert belongs in the low-carb category and I found it in Tartine Bakery's new Cookbook, Tartine Everyday. It's called the apple beehive and it is stupid easy to make. It has one main ingredient, Granny Smith apples. They're peeled and sliced on a mandolin, brushed with melted butter, a sprinkle of sugar, and baked. It doesn't get much easier than that provided you don't shred yourself using the mandolin.
   I made this dessert the weekend of the Sonoma fact the night before the wildfires started and so didn't get to post it until just now. There are only a couple of pictures to show you,  but as I said this is really, really, really, easy.

Apple Beehive

Here's What You Need:
3 lbs large Granny Smith apples
3 oz melted, unsalted butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup apricot jam

Here's What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Trace about an 8 inch circle on the parchment paper, then flip it over.
Peel and core the apples, then slice them on a mandolin.
Mix the cinnamon and sugar together.
Arrange the apple rounds in a circle, overlapping the slices.
Continue to layer the apples like this building a beehive shape.
Every two or three layers, brush the apples with melted butter and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
Once you have your beehive shaped mound of apple slices, brush the whole thing with melted butter.
DO NOT sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon on the top layer.

Cover the beehive with a dome of tin foil and pop it into the oven for about 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes take the beehive out of the oven, wearing mitts to protect your hands.
Press the foil down gently to compress the layers of apple.
Remove the foil and put the beehive back into the oven for another 25 to 30 minutes, or until it's soft all the way through if you poke it with the tip of a knife.
During the final few minutes of baking, heat the apricot jam until it melts.
Brush the entire beehive with it when it comes out of the oven.

You can serve this warm or at room temperature. Cut it into slices and add some lightly sweetened whipped cream...or if you dare warm caramel sauce.

There it is , apples, and a mandolin making beautiful music together. Coming up next more holiday treats! Follow along on Twitter at @kathygori

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Aloo Baingan : Eggplant and Potato, A Perfect Pairing.

   Well, now that my Advil-addled stomach is on the mend, and I'm fixing my anemia it's time to talk about cooking again. The day before the fire I cooked up a batch of stuff, but the next morning we had to flee at 3 AM and so I never got to post any of it until now. Luckily, this is one of my favorite Indian comfort foods and with the chilly and rainy weather we've been having up here post fires, it's especially welcome.
   Each Spring, no matter what else I'm planting, I always guaranteed plant two vegetables, potatoes, and about 4 different varieties of eggplant. Those two are the basis or are used in so many Indian dishes that they are essentials for me. This eggplant and potato dish is one of the first I learned to cook back 27 years ago. It quick, simple and delicious. All one needs is an eggplant and a few Yukon gold potatoes.

Aloo Baingnan


Here's What You Need:

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and cubed
1 medium or large eggplant, cubed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
1 to 2 green Serrano chilies
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger peeled and finely minced
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
curry leaves if you have them
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp of amchur powder (mango powder) or lemon juice
salt to taste

Here's What To Do:

Cube the eggplant and drop the pieces into a bowl of water so they do not get discolored. Set them aside.

Chop the onion and set aside.

Chop the ginger...

...and the chilies.

In a skillet or kadhai heat 1Tbs coconut oil or other vegetable oil.
When the oil is hot add in the cumin seeds, ginger, chilies, and curry leaves if you are using them.

Stir things around for a minute or two and when the spices get aromatic toss in the chopped onions.

Saute the onions until they get soft and translucent, then add the potatoes and turmeric powder.

Stir everything around to coat it add about 1/2 cup of  water.

Put a lid on the pan and let things cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the eggplant and the coriander and cumin powder, stir things around so they are well mixed.

Put a lid back on the pan, and let the vegetables cook for about 10 minutes or until everything is tender. Check and stir every now and then to make sure nothing is sticking or burning. You may add a bit more water if needed.
When everything is cooked though, add in the garam masala, and mango powder or lemon juice. Salt to taste, and finally the chopped cilantro.

This is a great warming dish, and a very basic one to start with if you've not cooked Indian food before.

It's great on the table with any American meal. It also works to serve this on a #meatlessmonday  with chapattis and a simple yogurt dish. Coming up next, a brilliant yet easy apple dish from Tartine Bakerys'  new cookbook. Follow along  on Twitter @kathygori

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Where I've Been, and Things I Lost In The Fire....Mainly Blood

 It's been a while. I had prepped several recipes to publish here and then we were interrupted by the Sonoma Fires. As I mentioned we evacuated to San Francisco for about 8 days and returned to find our house smoky but intact. We were very very fortunate as several friends lost everything.

   We were awakened by neighbors pounding on the door and ringing our bell at 3 am. When the doorbell is frantically ringing at that hour it never means anything good. Our across the street neighbor was telling us there was a big fire (actually there were about 14 fires) and we needed to get out. Now. Like right now. The picture above was what I saw at the end of our street on the East side of Sonoma. That was Gundlach Bundcshu and the Carneros fire.Those are flames over the tops of the trees. All the neighbors were leaving or gone.

 During the course of getting out of the house with the dog and whatever we could grab quickly at 3 am I hurt myself . No biggie, but I wound up in pain and so decided to take advil and tylenol to fix it. First big mistake. Taking them in a dehydrated condition with no food in my stomach second big mistake. I got pretty sick from that stuff after we'd evacuated to San Francisco and after a visit to the MD and blood tests. I discovered it caused bleeding in my stomach and I had gotten anemic. I was sent to the emergency room. The good news is that all my blood work and blood chemistry was normal.

The bad news, my blood which is normally 12 +was down to 8.2. Not enough for a transfusion, but enough to leave me weak and breathless and barely able to move around. I felt like I was on the top of Everest.
 That was two weeks ago. I am a zillion percent better than I was then and the doctor tells me it'll take about 2 months to build my blood back as I lost about 1/3 of my hemoglobin in that incident.  I am now on iron pills, B12, and Folic acid, and I 'm getting an endoscopy on Thursday to make sure I didn't give myself an ulcer. This is why I have been among the missing on this blog, I just haven't had the energy.
  So, as soon as I'm done with the endoscoipy on Thursday I will be posting one of my favorite Indian dishes Aloo Baingan and also an Apple Beehive.

Both were dishes I'd made the day before the fire and never got a chance to share.
   Meanwhile all of us here in Sonoma continue to recover.


Friday, October 20, 2017

An Oldie But Goodie Diwali Sweet Treat


We've been out of our house for the last 8 days or so due to the Sonoma Fires. Thankfully , our house is standing and we have much to be grateful for. I'll be writing more about this later and I have some great recipes cued up and ready to go. Meanwhile, it's the start of Diwali the Indian feast of Lights so here's a great dessert recipe that can be made up quickly. PS: it's also gluten free!

As I've said, I've rarely met a holiday I didn't like. Bring out the lights and the fun and the people and the food... I'm there. I'm also a very cheap date. Nothing has to be fancy to make me happy; it just has to be good. If stuff is good and sweet too, that's even better. This last week I've been making one of the tastiest holiday treats around... Indian Laddu. I've been making Laddu in honor of the Indian Feast of light Diwali, which has been going on  this last week. This photo has been making the rounds. Supposedly it's a NASA photo of India during Diwali celebration.

   Actually the story behind the photo is a myth. For the real explanation click here. I still think the photo is pretty cool however.

   Meanwhile, back at our house, it hasn't exactly been holiday time. We're nearly done with this draft of our script and are getting ready to turn it in. This means long days of work. Now contrary to what some may think, writing is not glamorous. Alan and I have been earning our living as  screenwriters for many years and I can tell you that writing is like digging ditches with your head... and that's on a good day. One of the best portrayals of a writer I've ever seen is in the film Adaptation. This is the life of a writer...unvarnished.

   He mentions a muffin. Yes, a muffin. That is something to look forward to in a writer's day. We need that little treat to keep us going. So in this last week, even though we haven't had the lights and the fun and the partying of Diwali, we have had the treats! The other day, I made some Rava Laddu. Yesterday I decided to make something that my friend Terri, who has to follow a gluten free diet, could enjoy. What better than a tasty festive Diwali Laddu made with gluten-free chickpea flour.

  The great thing about these laddu, is that they can be made very, very, very quickly. So if you've got an hour, you've got  a great dessert.

Vegan Besan Laddu

Here's what to do:
In a skillet or pan, melt a bit of butter and fry:
   2 Tbs of chopped chashews
   2  Tbs of sultana raisins.
When the raisins get plump and the nuts start to darken, take them off the flame and set them aside.

In a skillet, wok or kadhai heat 1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick) until it foams and clarifies.

When the butter has melted add in:
  1 cup of sifted besan (chickpea flour aka gram flour aka garbanzo bean flour)
This type of flour is available at Indian markets of course, and now because of the availability of gluten-free flours, it's  also found at most mainstream supermarkets.
Add the flour a bit at a time on a low heat, and keep stirring. The idea is that the flour should not roast or brown, just turn a nice, aromatic golden color.
If you need to add a bit more melted butter to things to keep the flour moist, no problem, just do so.
When the flour is nice and golden, take the pan from the fire and set it aside. When things have cooled a bit add in:
 1 cup of powdered sugar

  1/2 tsp of ground cardamom
  The fried cashews and raisins.
Mix everything together well. If you need more melted butter to make things hold together... go ahead.
Separate the dough into 12 portions...

...and roll each one into  a ball.

Store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Let them warm a bit before eating.
I like to serve them with a nice cup of unsweetened chai.

   Believe me, when one is banging one's head against a plot point at 3 in the afternoon, there's nothing better than one of these little beauties. And they're not just for Diwali either. I'm planning on making these for my Christmas parties also.

   So what am I working on now... besides the script? A couple of surprises including koftas, India's answer to gnocchi, and something I'm surprised I hadn't thought of before. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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